Shrimp import refusals spike over antibiotics
While the farmed shrimp industry in Asia has made progress on antibiotic use, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is refusing a higher number of shrimp imports – particularly from India – over banned antibiotics.
Out of the 197 seafood shipments that FDA refused entry to in July, 18 (9.1 percent) were shrimp products that contained banned antibiotics. And, from January through July 2016, FDA has refused 79 shipments because of veterinary drug residues.
“Even if no further refusals are made by the agency for the remainder of this year, the total amount of entry lines refused already exceeds the annual total of nine of the last fifteen years,” said the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a coalition of shrimp harvesters, processors and importers in eight U.S. states.
The primary source of refusals has been India, particularly two major exporters certified through the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program.
From January through July, shrimp exported from India has comprised 75 percent of the shrimp entry lines refused for reasons related to banned antibiotics. “The sheer number of entry line refusals of shrimp from India is unprecedented and is now nearly double the highest annual amount previously reported,” SSA said.
While overall antibiotic use in shrimp aquaculture is a limited phenomenon that affects a minority of the total shrimp supply in the global market, John Williams, executive director of SSA, told SeafoodSource, the “stubborn, continued use of antibiotics and the willingness of some distributors to continue to source from problematic suppliers, shows an intentional disregard for the problem.”
However, FDA’s stoppage of shrimp with banned antibiotics shows that the agency’s import inspection measures are working, according to the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). “A recent increase in import refusals is an illustration of just how effective FDA’s HACCP system is,” said Gavin Gibbons, vice president of communications at NFI. “FDA is rightly concentrated on companies that have not met U.S. standards…The targeting of specific exporters is an example of FDA’s ability to narrow its effective enforcement focus on bad actors.”
FDA’s focus on “bad actors” has led to the repeated refusal of shrimp shipments from four primary Indian exporters: Jagadeesh Marine Exports, Five Star Marine Exports Pvt. Ltd., RDR Exports and Kay Kay Exports.
“There are dozens, if not hundreds, of shrimp exporters in India. Only four Indian exporters show up in the FDA entry refusal data and two of those four account for the vast majority of the refusals,” Williams said, referring to Jagadeesh and Five Star Marine Exports “So why do importers keep buying shrimp from these two exporters?
Williams is concerned that, since both Jagadeesh and Five Star Marine Exports have GAA BAP certification, U.S. buyers may unknowingly buy shrimp with banned antiobiotics. “Retailers and restaurants that have committed to buying only BAP-certified product will continue to get this stuff, including any of the shipments that slip into the U.S. without being checked at the border by the FDA,” Williams said.
“Unless people are paying attention, importers and distributors will buy shrimp from the cheapest source available without worrying about undermining the efforts suppliers have made generally to improve the supply chain,” he added.
However, NFI is not as concerned about shipments that have been refused entry. “FDA’s attention to this issue will help India’s Ministry of Commerce & Industry to better focus their surveillance and testing. This is the type of reaction to FDA enforcement that helps make HACCP so effective,” Gibbons said.